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March 28, 2012

6 Lessons the Girl Scouts Can Teach Entrepreneurs

By Geri Stengel, creator of Guiding Women Entrepreneurs

When you sign up for a box of Thin Mints or Samoas, do you realize that you just helped an entrepreneur-in-training? And that she and the 100-year-old Girl Scout organization may have some ideas that could help your business.

Every year, Girl Scout troops across the nation set up small businesses and learn some timeless lessons in basic entrepreneurship. Maybe that’s why more than ⅔ of Us Congresswomen have “Girl Scout” on their resumes and 80% of women business owners were Girl Scouts.

What’s in those cookies anyway?

  1. Basic business skills: To run a business, you need to set goals, make decisions, manage money, market, and be ethical … all required when selling cookies either door-to-door or in front of the local big-box store.
  2. Reach for the stars: Wow! Your business just netted US$100,000. Can you make it US$500,000? A million? After setting the record in the Southwest Texas Council for the most cookies sold last year — 3,258 boxes of cookies in less than 3 months — first time Girl Scout, Hannah Richmond, is swinging for the bleachers; she plans to sell 10,000 boxes this year. Dream big and keep growing.
  3. Collaborate: Girl Scouts work together as members of a troop. Successful business leaders need to know how to ask for and accept support from others, both within their organizations and outside. No matter your business, it will benefit from networking with others through organizations like the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO). Or, if a peer advisory group isn’t available, find a mentor or set up a mutual mentorship with a peer. The key is having a safe place to sound out new ideas, evaluate opportunities, diagnose problems, develop and prioritize goals, plan a course of action, and people who will hold you accountable to the goals you set.
  4. Give back to your community: Social responsibility is a business asset and Girl Scouts get that, as well; their profits benefit a nonprofit of their choice. That big dreamer, Hannah Richmond, gave to the animal shelter for which she also volunteers time. Key point: Social responsibility and community involvement are not only about money. Time and skill matter as well. You can become engaged no matter how thin your profit margin … and that engagement may fatten up that profit margin.
  5. Take risks: Don’t be rash but be willing to act without knowing all the answers to every possible scenario. Remember item #3? You can call on others to fill in the gaps or help you over the tough spots. Just get going. Girl Scout encourage the just-go-for-it attitude, says Anna Maria Chávez, the new CEO of the Girl Scouts.
  6. Have fun. Be happy. Entrepreneurs must care, have passion, and enjoy challenge. If you aren’t getting a rush out of it — at least part of the time; there will be bad days — you may not be in the right business. Whether selling cookies or auto parts or real estate, love what you do and you’ll do a better job. Bring happiness into your work.

Now, open the Thin Mints, enjoy them and think about what you’re going to do to grow your business.

Geri Stengel, Ventureneer.com, created Guiding Women Entrepreneurs to help women power-up their businesses. It pulls together – in one place – information that will inspire and enlighten. Content is drawn from top-notch sources, from Inc. to Forbes, from Women 2.0 to the Kauffman Foundation. This post was previously published on The Next Women.

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